Vote 2014: Cedar Rapids Attorney Set to Enter Iowa District Race

By James Lynch, Reporter


By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – A Cedar Rapids attorney plans to formally enter the open-seat race in Iowa’s U.S. House 1st District next month and a former state legislator is in Washington to explore a congressional bid.

Dave O’Brien, who’s been active in Democratic politics, said his campaign organization will be up and running July 1 with a formal announcement to follow.

Broadly speaking, O’Brien said Thursday, he wants to expand the opportunities for middle-class Americans to share in the economic recovery being enjoyed by the wealthiest Americans.

Meanwhile, former Marion legislator Swati Dandekar of Marion is in Washington this week talking with people “who can help me make my decision” about getting into the race for the 1st District seat held by Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley. Braley is not seeking a fifth term because he is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Tom Harkin.

Already Rep. Pat Murphy of Dubuque and Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon are seeking the Democratic nomination.

Dandekar and O’Brien could make it a trio of Linn County candidates in the June 2014 primary election. However, neither said that concerns them.

“Open congressional seats don’t come around all that often and anyone who wants to run ought to give it a serious look and if they feel they have something to offer to the debate, by all means, they ought to get in,” O’Brien said.

Dandekar simply said she can’t be concerned about who else might run.

Although Linn County Democrats Supervisor Linda Langston of Cedar Rapids and Sen. Liz Mathis of Robins have decided to pass on the race, the list could get longer.

Rep. Tyler Olson of Cedar Rapids hasn’t closed the door on the 1st District race, but the speculation is that if he runs it will for governor.

Another potential candidate is second-term Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic of Waterloo. She was at a recent 1st District Democratic Central Committee meeting to talk about the possibility of running.

Dandekar who served in the Iowa House from 2002 to 2008 when she was elected to the Senate, said she took a week off from her job as a member of the Iowa Utilities Board to travel to Washington with former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge for a series of Capitol Hill meetings.

She expects to make a decision in July.

O’Brien’s practice consists primarily of representing people in personal injury lawsuits. Born and raised in Sioux City, he George Washington University and the University of Iowa College of Law. He worked in the Labor Department during the Clinton administration before moving to Cedar Rapids.

He and his wife, Stacey, have four children and have served as foster parents to at-risk children.

The Republican field, so far, consists of businessmen Steve Rathje of Cedar Rapids and Rod Blum of Dubuque. Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha is expected to enter the race this summer.

The 20-county district stretches from Marshalltown north to Minnesota and east to the Mississippi River. It includes Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Dubuque.

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